AUGUSTA, GEORGIA — Since everyone seems to be on the subject of the four penalty strokes given to Lexi Thompson on Sunday at the ANA Inspiration as a result of a viewer’s e-mail, Justin Thomas would like to make a phone call.
He’s still not happy about the play the Clemson Tigers ran to beat his beloved Alabama Crimson Tide on the last play of the college football national championship in January, believing the Tigers were guilty of a penalty.
“Perfect example, I would call the ref in the national championship game and say that last one was a pick play,” Thomas said.
If only it were golf.
The controversy about allowing television viewers to phone or e-mail potential rules violations re-erupted with Thompson’s unfortunate situation, which ultimately cost her a major championship victory.
It’s no surprise that players want a change.
“I think we’ve seen some stuff in the past year that is not making the game look very good at all,” Rickie Fowler said. “There’s no other sport where people can call or e-mail in or contact officials regarding an issue.
“I mean, there’s plenty of circumstances in plenty of other sports where a call could go a completely different way, and these decisions are left up to officials. There’s not people sitting at home dictating this or, you know, in this case, having a lot of effect on the outcome of a major.”
In the Tour Championship last fall, Thomas was penalized for causing his ball to move on the green, though he argued – to no avail – that he had not caused the subtle movement. It was similar to the situation that happened to Dustin Johnson at the U.S. Open last June when he was penalized after the round for his ball moving on the fifth green in the final round.
In Thompson’s case, the primary frustration came from the lag time between when the ball-marking incident occurred – Thompson did not deny inadvertently breaking a rule – and when tournament officials reacted to it based on an e-mail from a television viewer.
Fowler doesn’t like retroactively penalizing a player based on something an outsider noticed.
“There’s no question it should be ended. I don’t think you could find one player that would say otherwise,” Fowler said.
“Now if there’s an official always monitoring any video or anyone on camera, that’s fine, and I have no problem with that, if that’s an official. You look at other sports, they go to someone in the video booth and there’s an official in there that can look over stuff, great.
“There shouldn’t be any outside contact, whether it’s e-mail or phone calls, whatsoever.”
A simple solution would seem to be placing a Tour rules official in the television truck at each event to monitor the telecast and report any potential rules violations. Once the round is complete and the rules officials have signed off, no outside information would be allowed.
“Nobody gets to call in ins and outs in tennis,” Jimmy Walker said. “It just doesn’t happen. I think we need to change that.”